Monday, June 26, 2017

CITRUS TREES PLANTED IN GALVANIZED RINGS

Here is a project we're finally ready to share the finished results (this was done over a month ago but I just put the post together this rainy weekend when we were housebound, ha!)

Planning for citrus trees
It all started with a plan (doesn't everything? ha).  We decided that since the regular orchard of fruit trees was behind the house, we still had the space here behind the garden that was unused.  It has water nearby and was just the right amount of space for three trees. Since we had three citrus trees, this was the best spot to put them.

Because of our soil (clay) we decided to go the open bottomed raised bed route just like we did with the peach/pear/apple/plum trees behind the house.  I was about to order more metal corner brackets and stopping to get wood, have it cut, build it, etc.

One day though, I had an epiphany: 


I realized that these galvanized fire rings could be perfect as a "raised bed".  They were 12" high, same as the wood boxes I built.  They were 36" in diameter and while a bit smaller than the 4x4 square boxes, with citrus trees that would be more than enough space around them (much bigger than any container and many people keep citrus in a container anyway).  BEST of all, there was no cutting, no buying anything extra, no hard work to do.  They come unassembled but literally took about 10 minutes for each one to just put in the screws and nuts and be done. 

Galvanized fire ring planter
Check this out!!!  

Boom!  Instant and, at least we think so, stylish above ground planter!


All I had to do was add the soil blend.  We used a combination of garden soil and raised bed mixture (to help with moisture and allow roots to move around).  


I broke up the ground underneath, put down some cardboard and layered the soil/compost. Once it got to the right height, I put the tree inside so that the root ball was fairly even with the top of the ring and continued filling around it with soil.

Tree planting ring
I filled the soil to the top and was done. It has settled of course since then and we top it off when necessary, but it worked far better than we could have expected. These will even be easy to wrap up in the Winter if we have a hard freeze coming.

Limes
Now that we are over a month in, we already have fruit growing. Since citrus will develop fruit while growing in pretty much any container, we decided to leave these on and see what happens. We pulled off a few so they weren't overloaded but each tree still has a couple so we'll see how it goes.  Eventually we'll put some companion plantings at the base of them in the rings, whatever works best for each type of fruit of course.  

This coming weekend we'll be putting straw mulch down around them to keep the moisture in this Summer.

Citrus Yard
Behold!  

We have a lime, a lemon and an orange!  By the way, it's the angle that looks like the lime and orange are close together but they are all spaced in more or less a triangle shape.  

This area we will be calling "The Citrus Yard".  We figured that it's easier to identify various parts of the property like "the orchard" or the "apiary" or the "dewberry patch".  So "citrus yard" seemed good enough.  Not sure what else we will plant back there, might need to let them get bigger so we can see what we have to work with but so far so good!

Let the citrus growing begin!

Sunday, June 25, 2017

ANOTHER DAY MORE RAIN

Another day, and more rain...


This was the radar downtown when we were awakened by loud thunder (and being in a high-rise, it has to be loud for us to hear it) at 5:30am.  We had FOUR INCHES of rain in town.  It slowed down and stopped for a couple of hours but now it's getting overcast again.  2nd Family said we had another inch or so overnight out at the farm.  It's good for the fruit trees for sure, and the grass, and replenishing the aquifers, but it would be better during the week.


Love this photo Sesame Street tweeted out yesterday.  They are awesome!


A side note to a friend of the blog that I'm trying to reach.  If JM, our "nearby neighbor" and my "bee buddy" is reading this, drop me a line at the email over on the side of the blog.  I tried to reach you a few times but the email bounced back. 
Hope to hear from you, thanks!!!

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Hope everyone is having a good weekend!  I'll catch up on comments later today!

Saturday, June 24, 2017

NOT AT THE FARM THIS WEEKEND


This is the view from the apartment this morning when we woke up.  Heavy rain, lightning, wind. Sigh.


The farm is under that lower line of storms and there are more storms coming behind that.  These are very slow moving storms so there has already been some street flooding.


2nd Family send us this picture, along with the news that we've already had 2" of rain (as of 2 hours ago) with more coming today...


...and tomorrow and Monday and maybe Tuesday and well, you can see.  Looks like it just might be a wet week for us.


There will be no farm this weekend for us.  Sigh.  Maybe it's nature telling us to take a break.  Time for some future planning and daydreaming!

Hope your weekend is off to a better start!


Friday, June 23, 2017

WE CAN'T WE JUST CAN'T FRIDAY FUNNY

Canned Haggis
We will admit, with apologies to our friends across the pond, that Haggis is one of those things we are pretty sure we would never want to try.  

And then we saw these at the grocery store the other day...CANNED Haggis.  In beef AND in lamb.  

Offal in a can?

Nope, we still can't, just can't do it. 

Any haggis fans out there? 


Thursday, June 22, 2017

BIRD FEEDING STATION INSPIRATION THURSDAY

Every Thursday we like to post a picture of something we've found online that inspires us to do something similar at the farm.  
Sort of our own blog bulletin board so that we can eventually look back and someday, hopefully anyway, recreate it...enjoy!

Bird Feeding Station, image courtesy of Better Homes and Garden, BHG.com
We've been thinking of future fun projects and one thing we'd like to do is make sure we take care of the wildlife at the farm.  What came up was thinking of a place to feed the birds.  After some Googling, we found that "bird feeding stations" are a thing.  This style intrigued us the most.  

We're guessing the bottom is for overflow/spillage?  Of course in this picture, the squirrels are loving that part of it.  It's a fun idea, something that doesn't seem all that complicated to pull off and it helps the birds.  We're OK with all of that.  

Be inspired!


Wednesday, June 21, 2017

MICROWAVE BREAD AND BUTTER PICKLES

One of our new favorite ways of making Bread and Butter pickles.  The microwave!  And this recipe comes to us courtesy of sweet Texas Rose, a frequent commenter.   

Here is the end result, yummy!


Now these aren't "canned" but if we're being honest, they don't last long enough to worry about that, ha.  You just keep them in the fridge and use like any other pickle. For the batch above, we used this glass bowl with lid but the next batch (bottom of this post) was in a canning jar (again, NOT canned, these are not shelf stable, just easier in a jar).  

Bread and Butter Microwave pickle ingredients
Here are the ingredients.  Cucumbers, sugar, vinegar, onion, celery seed, salt, turmeric and mustard seed. That's it!!  Recipe is at the bottom of this post.


Slice the cucumbers (we like them thick but you can make them thinner).  Cut up the onion and then add all remaining ingredients to microwave safe bowl. 
Stir to combine.

Bread and Butter pickles in the microwave
Cover with plastic wrap, and microwave on high for about 10 minutes, stopping every 3 minutes or so to stir.  Be careful when pulling back the plastic wrap, they are hot!


After the first three minutes, stir.


After six minutes, stir again.


Finally, the last three or four minutes stir and remove to counter to cool.  You can see how they change from the beginning.

Microwave Bread and Butter pickles
Once cool, put in a jar or container and refrigerate. In the interest of full disclosure, this jar WAS full but I took the picture after we had eaten half, LOL!

MICROWAVE BREAD AND BUTTER PICKLES INGREDIENTS:

2 Cups sliced cucumbers (about 4 large)
1 medium onion, sliced (about 1 cup)
1/2 cup white vinegar
1/2 tsp mustard seed
1/4 tsp celery seed
1/4 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup sugar

Mix all together, cover with plastic wrap, and microwave on high for 10 minutes, stopping to stir about every 3 minutes or so.  Put into a container, allow to cool and refrigerate.  You can enjoy them right away but after a couple of days in the fridge, they are SO good.  Crunchy with a great sweet sour flavor.  Enjoy!




EDIT TO ADD THIS DESCRIPTION:

WHAT ARE BREAD AND BUTTER PICKLES?

Bread and Butter pickles are a combination of sweet and vinegary pickles.  Some might consider anything other than sour/dill to be a sacrilege to the history of the beloved pickle but these sure are good.  

So where did the name come from?  

There are two stories:

The first story involves cucumber farming family during the Great Depression that created these sweet and sour pickle slices with a surplus of cucumbers. They traded them to their grocer in exchange for some of the basics, "bread" and "butter", the name stuck and here we are.

The second story also comes from the Great Depression.  Times were tough, there wasn't a lot of food around, certainly meat, but cucumbers were easy to grow (we understand).  Someone came up with these sweet and sour pickle slices and when they were eaten on a slice of buttered, brown bread, it actually made for a substantial and filling meal.

SO, I guess the true story may be lost to history...which one do YOU like?  

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

HOSE REEL HIDEAWAY FLOWERBED

A few weeks ago, I was sharing pictures of the work I was doing on the front flower beds.  One part I couldn't finish until I got the the right part, was the water hose area.  

Suncast hosereel
And this is the key part we were waiting for.  One of those "hose reel hideaways". We found ours are Home Depot but they also have them here:


This one was chosen for a few reasons. It was the largest one we could get that would fit in the spot perfectly (had to worry about front to back depth).

Suncast Hosereel Hideaway
It rotates both directions on the base (there are stakes to hold it to the ground) so that you can point it in the direction that your hose needs to go, which of course helps it come out much easier and keeps you from pulling it over as you pull out more hose or even raking it across your plants.  


It's also very large, holding up to 225' of hose!  I think we only have 100' on there currently so it might be time for a longer hose (or to add on I suppose).  This particular model has a feature called "smart track hose guide" which you can kind of see above.  The end of the hose goes through this guide which then moves back and forth as you reel it in, keeping the hose evenly distributed on the spindle. Pretty ingenious actually.  

My parents had one years ago that didn't have that feature and you had to make sure the hose was even as you rolled it up or you had to unroll and start over.  This feature is brilliant.  We can roll up 100 feet of hose in about 15 seconds. 


So we've gone from this messy area...


...to this neat and clean area!  

I put down the weedblock fabric and filled it with gravel so it's deep and covered.  There is a two outlet manifold, one has the connection to the garden hose (the green oval thing is the automatic timer for the garden watering) and the other outlet is for the hose reel box.  Actually now we need three outlet manifold for the backyard hose but we'll get that later.

It's just so much neater and cleaner and now that I've used it for a bit, I can unequivocally say that this is THE BEST thing we've purchased recently.  I can unroll as much as I need, water the flowerbeds along the front, all the plants on the porch, and it will even reach all the way around to both ends of the house for the future flowerbeds.  Then I just turn the handle and roll it back up neat and tidy!  The area still looks like the day I finished it over a month ago and it is used every single weekend.  If you have the need for one of these types of hose reels I would highly recommend them.

Sometimes it's the simple things in life!


Monday, June 19, 2017

GARDEN HARVEST, SNAKESKIN AND OTHER THINGS WEEKEND UPDATE

It was a good weekend, albeit VERY hot and VERY humid.  Ugh doesn't even begin to describe it, ha.


I was able to mow which is always my favorite thing to do, I put on my headphones and spend a couple hours mowing. It's so relaxing to me.  

But change is on the way, and not necessarily good.

And this is why:



There is a tropical disturbance (and another one right behind it!) in the Gulf of Mexico.  Earlier models had it going toward Mexico, now the "cone" of possible landfall locations is showing us in the middle as an almost direct hit.  Or either side of us, East or West.  We'll see.  If it's direct or West, we'll be on what is called the "dirty side" and have LOTS of rain later this week.  If it's East, we'll be on the "clean side" and have dry weather.

Dorsett Golden apple tree
Stopped on the way to the farm so I could look for some supplies and I happened upon this gorgeous Dorsett Golden apple tree. I pulled up one of the dead ones, changed out much of the soil, put new soil in and planted the tree.  So excited.  

For those who missed yesterday's post, CLICK HERE to see a before and after pic of this area.

Grow baby grow!


Snake skin
As I was watering the trees, I noticed this dangling out from under the house.  A freakin' snake skin!  I debated the merits of looking underneath but decided I needed to.  So I crawled under with a flashlight and, THANKFULLY, didn't see anything.

But the skin left behind was long...
Veeeery long...


I painted the other metal chair in the "Golden Sunset" color.  We love it!  For now they are both in the garden.  I forgot to get a closeup but you can kind of see them in this picture, ha.  They actually look pretty in the garden with the red veggie cages, but we have a place for them, coming soon. 

Harvest Monday
Speaking of veggies, here is some of the weekend haul. There are cucumbers under there and a few more off camera and another giant zucchini I left out of the photo as well.  

The zucchini plant looks like it is fading away.  Not sure if it's too hot or something got it but it's huge and falling over with no new growth and the leaves are fading. Not many being produced either. Since we tried yellow squash and zucchini in the same bed, it may be that planting the zucchini too close to the edge made the difference.  Next time maybe full on center planting and let it have the whole bed.

The cucumbers also seem to be slowing down, though if we could pick them daily, they might be producing even more.  But as it stands, we have plenty and have been very happy.

This tomato plant (Celebrity) since we only have one vine now, is doing great.  It gives us a few each week  and they are healthy and large so we will try more of those next season. We use them as fast as we get them so no canning of tomato sauce (from OUR garden tomatoes anyway) this season.

Our garden will be, for the next few growing years, an experiment in what varieties work best in our climate and observations on how big they get so we can decide where things need to be in the future and of course just whatever doesn't work at all.

So that was the hot weekend, all in all, things are going well (snakes excluded).   



Sunday, June 18, 2017

BACKYARD BEFORE AND AFTER

Periodically we like to see the results of our hard work in before and after photos and thought we'd share these.  I was looking through some old photos and found a great "before" photo and so I decided to stand in the same spot and get a new 'after'.  

Backyard before
Here is the backyard before.  

Those trees and shrubs and vines went almost all the way through to the other side.  There were a few open spots but I when I got the mower, I would start mowing a little wider each time, clearing more and more.  At times I would get out the shears and hacksaw and clear by hand as many of the vines as possible.  When we were finally left with just a few junk trees, we hired a guy to safely cut them down. 

For a while, it was just mud and dirt.  And tire ruts.  We decided I would just mow it over and over for a season (or two), sprinkled out some grass seed one early Spring and eventually the ruts filled in, the grass returned and it became a regular yard!

Backyard after
This is what it looks like now.  

That's why we decided this year that it was finally the right time to put in the fruit trees and here it is.  

2 Pear trees
2 Plum trees
2 Apple trees
2 Peach trees

They are doing great. I mentioned that we lost the two apple trees but we believe that was from the Winter, they just never came out of their dormancy. It's possible they didn't have enough water (my fault) and one was infested with ants in its black container.  One of them has already been replaced (update tomorrow).  The others are all growing nicely, so we're happy about that.  Reluctantly, I pinched off blooms so we can let them concentrate on root development.  

Patience grasshopper!


Also, we would be remiss if we didn't say Happy Father's Day to all of you out there who are fathers or to your own fathers.  We have lost both of ours, but they live on in everything we do to honor their memories!  

I'll catch up on comments tonight.  Hope your weekend went well!


Saturday, June 17, 2017

MY TWO FAVORITE MACHINES

Off to the farm on this HOT and humid day, ugh, to mow and see what all we can get done.  


Might stay inside and do some "inside the house" things as well.  Here is what will be used today, my car and my Zen Machine, my two favorite 4 wheeled machines.  Of course, going to stop off at Home Depot and pick up a few supplies.  

Hope your weekend is off to a great start!